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Gov't, ex-leprosy patients to sign official settlement.

KUMAMOTO, Japan, Jan. 25 Kyodo

The government and a group of plaintiffs comprising former leprosy patients not forced into sanitariums under the government's former quarantine policy, as well as relatives of deceased leprosy patients, decided Friday to sign an out-of-court settlement in the plaintiffs' compensation suit, lawyers of the plaintiffs said.

Health minister Chikara Sakaguchi and the representative of the group will sign a basic agreement on the settlement on Monday at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Tokyo, they said.

The settlement is expected to be officially reached at the Kumamoto District Court in Kumamoto Prefecture on Wednesday.

The government and the plaintiffs have been discussing details to be included in the agreement, and the government told the group on Friday that it will accept the settlement, the lawyers said.

The agreement document stipulates that the government will not require the bereaved relatives to take possession of the ashes of the deceased patients, which are now kept at the sanitariums, and will not limit damages for the former patients to the impact of the reduced opportunities they had to receive medical treatment.

The document also contains a government apology admitting its legal responsibility.

The government also agreed to pay compensation in accordance with the court's recommendation.

The Kumamoto court recommended Dec. 7 that the state and plaintiffs agree to a settlement under which the government is to pay 5 million to 7 million yen each to 16 former leprosy patients who were not quarantined and 5.5 million to 14 million yen each to the relatives of 72 leprosy patients who died before the suit was filed.

On Dec. 26, the state presented other conditions to the plaintiffs and formally accepted the court recommendation the following day.

The conditions had included limiting damages for the former patients to the impact of the reduced opportunities they had to receive medical treatment, and requiring the bereaved family members to take possession of the ashes of the deceased patients kept at the sanitariums.

The suit was initially filed with the Kumamoto District Court in July 1998 by 13 leprosy patients at sanitariums in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures in southwestern Japan.

On May 11, the Kumamoto court ordered the state to pay a combined 1.8 billion yen in compensation to 127 leprosy patients who were confined in sanitariums.

About 2,100 plaintiffs and the state reached a settlement later in similar suits, and a law was enacted in June to pay between 8 million and 14 million yen each in compensation to former leprosy patients forced into sanitariums.

However, patients who were not sent to the facilities and those who died before the initial suit was lodged were not covered by the law and have filed their own lawsuits.

The plaintiffs who were not forced into sanitariums say they have suffered social discrimination under the state policy which they say ruined their lives. Most other leprosy patients in Japan were forced into sanitariums under the 1953 Leprosy Prevention Law, which was repealed in 1996.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Jan 28, 2002
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